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Micro Bio-degradable Electronics

2/18/15     The use of bioresorbable materials in the medical device sector is growing fast. Due to the advances in material technology and design and manufacturing techniques, resorbable devices are used throughout healthcare, especially in the area of orthopedics, controlled drug delivery, and vascular closure devices.

Typically the devices made from such materials are inert, such as screws and plates used in reconstructive surgery. MES has been and is involved in numerous projects using innovative bioresorbable materials that cater for an array of medical applications.

In the medical area, there are a number of developments looking at ways in which power can be added to implantable resorbable medical devices, opening up the potential for implantable or ingested medical devices that can undertake therapeutic or diagnostic functions, and once the desired affect or results have been achieved, resorb into the body.

Such devices fit into a broader area of technology known in some quarters as “transient electronics”, which also has applications in the areas of environmental monitors and consumer devices. Using such technology, environmental monitors have the ability to dissolve and disappear once they have performed their function in such situations as chemical spills, oil spills etc…, thereby reducing environmental impact. In the area of consumer products, it is the effect that transient electronic components can have on the environmental fall out from frequently replaced products like mobile phones and personal electronic devices that has enormous potential.

MES is delighted to have been given permission to repost an extremely important article published by the Royal Society of Chemistry in the United Kingdom in the Journal of Materials Chemistry “B”, concerning biodegradable electronics using current sources fabricated from edible materials.

The move towards the use of edible materials which have conductive properties and which can biodegrade once ingested into the body opens up an array of new potential developments in treatment and diagnosis.

What differentiates these technologies from other transient electronic applications is the material used. Most research to date has been in the development of transient electronic components that are made from extremely small but high-performance electronic systems that are made from thin silicon sheets. These sheets are in fact so thin, that they will completely dissolve in-vivo, along with soluble electronic elements made from magnesium and magnesium oxide. The focus of research in this area is around ensuring a predictable rate of degradation to cater for different applications ranging from a few days to a number of months, which is achieved through encapsulating devices in different amounts of silk.

But the focus of the Royal Society of Chemistry article is in the specific area of active medical implants, using electrochemical electronic power sources that are composed entirely of edible materials and naturally occurring precursors that are consumed in normal diets. As such, the focus is on edible electrical sources that can power up medical devices that are taken by mouth and not implanted, i.e. non-invasive devices.

Their specific area of use would be in sensors that analyze gastric function, and also in novel drug delivery, and they are designed to deploy and power up when ingested.  The article indicates how such technology can potentially be used for non-invasive sensing and tissue simulation.

MES believes that the developments in the area of transient electronic devices in general and edible transient electronic devices in particular will open up the possibility of numerous innovative medical devices and combination devices, and we will report on any advances in this area that have immediate commercial potential.



Journal of Materials Chemistry B

Self-deployable current sources fabricated from edible materials
Young Jo Kim, Sang-Eun Chun, Jay Whitacreab and   Christopher J. Bettinger


blog - 021815 bioresorbable electronics


Flexible biodegradable electronics have the potential to serve as the centerpiece for temporary electronically active medical implants. Biodegradable electronics may exhibit many advantages over traditional chronic implants. Two important long-term goals for biodegradable electronics are (1) supplying sufficient power and (2) reducing the invasiveness of device deployment. Edible electronic devices are capable of addressing both challenges. Here, we introduce electrochemical electronic power sources that are compatible with non-invasive deployment strategies and are composed entirely of edible materials and naturally occurring precursors that are consumed in common diets. The current sources developed herein are powered by onboard sodium ion electrochemical cells. Potentials up to 0.6 V and currents in the range of 5–20 μA can be generated routinely. These devices could serve as an enabling platform technology for edible electronics used in non-invasive sensing and stimulation of tissues within the human body.